Dave Challinor of Sounds Like Sunset
by Jason and Brent
Hello. Could you please tell us something about you and your band?
We’re from Sydney (Australia) and we’ve been playing shows since about 1997 when another band I was in broke up. We started as a 3 piece, but soon became 4, and we’ve gone through 3 drummers in that time – Tobey’s our 4th drummer, and he’s been with us just about the longest out of all of them. We play loud because that’s the best way. Loud fuzzy guitars, lots of big amps. haha – the kids might be interested to know that The Vines once played below us on a bill a couple of years ago. Craig was smashing guitars during the first song even then.
It has been sometime between albums. Saturdays was released in 2001. What’s next and when should we expect something new from the band?
We’re recording new stuff at the moment. We’ve filled 3 reels of 24 track tape with songs, but there’s more to go. We’re going kinda slowly because we’re always waiting to get access to the studio so we can work on it again. we didn’t want to wait this long between releases but time goes by so fast. Most bands in this country have to fund their own recordings and even bands who are signed don’t get much money anyway, so studio costs have been holding us back more than anything. We should have the record finished in the next few months, and then it’s really just a matter of getting it out there…
I know that you are recording new material. Has the sound changed? What progression do you see in your music? Is your disc going to get US distribution?
I hope it gets US distro, yeah. we’ve heard from some people who are interested, but I think it’s pretty hard for everyone at the moment – nobody really has any money to spend. It’s still cool though, we meet a lot of really keen people who have good intentions but don’t necessarily have the resources to make it work. It doesn’t really bother me but I guess after all the hard work, it would be nice to have as much chance as possible of having people hear our stuff. The music – it’s changed quite a lot. I only noticed it a few months ago really. It’s a lot more basic I guess. I’m much happier with all of this stuff than anything from the last record. Even though I like Saturdays a lot and I’m proud of what we did, I think this one is a really different thing. It’s kind of exciting seeing it come together, but it’s frustrating because we only get a day or so at a time to work on it so the whole creative flow keeps getting broken up!
You make great pop songs. Who are your influences? Who are you listening to now?
Oh thanks. um, I’m not sure who the influences are, apart from naming all my avourite bands. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Stereolab, Yo la Tengo, My Bloody Valentine – they’ve already gone before and set the bar so incredibly high…I’d love to one day make a record that could be filed somewhere in amongst these people. Since we made Saturdays though I’ve been completely obsessed with The Stooges and Suicide. I really, really love that stuff…so lawless and aggressive but also kinda floating, hypnotic…
I think I learned the most about writing songs from working in a warehouse, where there was always this classic-hits radio station playing in the background. It was kinda cheesy now and again but just being exposed to all that great old stuff like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Kinks etc for hours on end must’ve done some good…just the phrasing, the arrangements, the key changes…and making it all sound so simple and easy. Prior to that job I was into The Beatles and The Beach Boys, but I think hearing all those 60’s songs at work all the time helped me to imagine some kind of structure or framework to base all the noisy guitars on. It was a really grueling, depressing physical job but the music was a real mental escape. During the 2hr trip there and back each day I’d listen to sketches of new 4 track tunes on my Walkman, scribbling down lyrics in a notebook as they popped into my head.
I was at the warehouse on and off for about 3 years and to me it was a really important time, it got me working really hard at songwriting. Dave Hobson (our bass player) worked at the warehouse too.
oh and none of the songs are in standard tuning – they’re all done with the guitar tuned to a chord, and then I play around within that framework to make the rest of the song.
You did a split with the Lassie Foundation. I don’t know if you know this, but Lassie is back together. Any plans to hook up with Lassie again?
Um, yeah I didn’t really know them – Dave Hobson kinda set that whole thing up. He was on the internet before I was so he kinda had this whole network of contacts (or so I thought) and he just started emailing Eric and to our surprise, lassie were really keen to be a part of something with us. We were stoked – all I’d heard up til that point had been their ep or something, but it was cool. In a lot of ways, I think they’re kinda kindred spirits…
I didn’t even realize they’d reformed until a few months ago – I saw a site with this whole string of releases they’ve got. I’d like to hear what they’re up to now. I think the split we did with them was probably just a one-off but I guess you never know…
Do you have plans to tour the states? If so, when?
Yeah we’d love to – I guess it’s just a matter of getting the record finished and seeing what happens. The possibilities of getting anywhere over here are fairly limited so we’ve always been looking overseas. Comparatively it’s such a tiny scene here. It’s pretty rough – there are some really excellent bands here that will probably never get a chance to go overseas, while on the other hand Australia seems to be able to export the really forgettable bands with no trouble at all. I guess that’s the way it’s always been…
Would you tell our readers a little about your writing process and how you go about making music? Who are the principle writers in the band, etc.?
Yeah I write the music. I find it hard to come up with words – they’re usually the last thing to get sorted out in a song for me – but the vocal melody is the first thing I work out, I just start mumbling over the top of a tune, just ba-ba-da-bahs or whatever. I guess make the words fit the shapes of the melodies. seriously, I think I learned more about this from listening to stuff like Public Enemy..their phrasing and the percussive sounds in their choice of lyrics are really incredible. I was always into trashy-guitar bands, but I listened to a lot of hip hop when I was a teenager – and now I think I can identify that I like the space and the bouncy repetition of it all.
I think the sound of a voice is pretty crucial to any band. years ago I used to like all those instrumental bands but now I can’t even listen to it…there’s just something about the human voice that makes music sound somehow complete. It kinda gives you the freedom to just switch off and fly around the music with other melodies that you might not be able to do otherwise, maybe due to a lack of skills on guitar or whatever. I’m an example of that…I hear the sounds in my head but usually I can’t play them on the guitar so I just sing them. And we’re all fairly disjointed compared to a lot of other bands – I make the music on my little tascam porta034 track machine or even a little Dictaphone. then I pass out cdr’s or tapes to the other guys in the band to have a listen. most of us live a long way away from each other, so we hardly ever get together and practice …so when we do, we don’t really jam out ideas, we just get straight to work on this song or that. I don’t really have the patience to sit around for hours in that situation and there’s not really enough time to just jam away on an idea…and I find that it doesn’t usually work out that well anyway – it soon turns into a showcase of whatever ingrained bad habits we have and it all resembles a more dopey-sounding Foo Fighters or something. with heaps of bum notes…
What is the music scene like in Australia?
It’s really busy at the moment. Lots and lots of bands, and a lot of really friendly people. Some of these bands are pretty great, but like anywhere else the little bands get crushed by the bigger ones who have booking agents or record labels behind them. And it’s like the manager of these bands also work as writers for a street press or magazines, while also running an indie label etc etc, so it’s pretty easy to be cynical of the whole system. It’s pretty much out of everyone’s control and it gets depressing. I just hate playing that whole game and I don’t even really go out to shows anymore, I prefer to avoid being confronted by it. I just stay home and make up tunes while I watch the telly.
For our readers who are gear heads, would you share a bit about your equipment? What do you use to make all those sonic walls of sound, etc.?
Single coil pickups! I have a couple of jazzmasters – I really love those guitars. They look cool but they have this amazing sound that no other guitar even comes close to…but each jazzmaster sounds really different from the next. Mine are japanese ones that I’ve done a lot of work on, changing the pickups or whatever. Over here the old US jazzmasters are incredibly expensive (if you can even find them) so most of us make do with what we can afford. But my friend recently bought an old American jazzmaster in Korea and it sounds way better than my guitars…even when it’s played clean it still has real guts to its sound. Like the clean guitars in Sonic Youth…they sound brittle but really full.
Also I’ve got another strat copy that I’ve butchered over the years. It was my first-ever electric guitar that my mum bought me for my 17th birthday. now it’s got these insane pickups in it, and I change it around all the time – changing the pots, the capacitors etc. I changed the neck on it too.
I had a really excellent guitar that was stolen around the end of last year. It was a really old copy of a gibson es-335 and I replaced the humbuckers with these P-90’s I won on ebay. It had this amazing roar, with a really nasty, trebly edge. man I loved that guitar. now it’s gone…
I play through 2 amps at once – one is a 65watt Australian-made tube amp from the 60’s, kinda like a copy of a vox AC30 and a fender bassman in one. It has a celestion vintage30 speaker in it. also I have a 50watt marshall JCM800 head, and it runs through an early 70’s marshall slant box with 25watt celestion speakers inside. I think those speakers make a massive difference to the sound – they’re so bright and sizzly. When I’ve tried the 300watt boxes that most people have, they sound to me like I’m playing with the tone knob on my guitar rolled all the way down…kinda foggy and muddy.
I like pedals too – I mostly like older ones. I have about 40 pedals, mostly stuff that I find second-hand. sometimes they’re bronken and I fix them. My favourites are this old 70’s American made bigmuff, the MXR blue box, and a couple of cheap ibanez tubescreamers that I’ve modified into 808’s. Also the ibanez SD9 sonic distortion is pretty nuts. They also make one called a ‘mostortion’ that is really amazing. I’m not really into the really new stuff that much, but there are some great people around making some amazing pedals. There’s a local guy called Ivan Richards who hand-builds great effects – I use a rich-fuzz that he makes. also I really like the akai headrush. I use it at shows to loop sounds if I have to change the tuning on my guitar between songs…it’s really cheap and it has around 16 seconds of loop/delay time.
I also make a few of my own too. I mess around with soldering iron and sort of come up with things that sound pretty cool. The first one I made was one of those 3MS pedals – a “noiseswash” distortion. It’s pretty incredible. Recently I made a couple of copies of the roland bee-baa too. The bee-baa sounds insane…real sonic destruction! I’d really love to try stuff like lovetone and z-vex stuff but it’s way too expensive for me at the moment! I saw J Mascis using a z-vex fuzz factory and the sound was pretty mindblowing…
For all the live band songs on Saturdays, I played through a mesa-boogie dual rectifier going into a 100w marshal box. Andrew played his fender pro-sonic head through his 300w marshall box. Most of the distortion was
added later, running the taped guitars through a sherman filterbank, or overdriving the inputs on the desk or something (they told us the desk was the same Quad-Eight console that the original Star Wars movie was mixed on!). It was recorded to 16-track 2”. a lot of the other songs on the record were just recorded on whatever gear I have at home.
Do you have any authors that stimulate your creative juices?
Not really. I used to read a fair bit, and I kinda stopped after I finished studying art. I remember I liked reading Kafka and Dostoyevsky. Oscar Wilde. I remember getting pretty bogged-down in a lot of philosophical stuff too. Nietzsche, Jung, Freud. It all got a bit confusing. Also I read a bit of Herman Hesse. Kerouac is pretty fun to read. I should read more. I should also paint and draw more but at the moment my head’s so stuck in making music it’s hard to apply the creative juices to anything else. I like reading what Francis Schaeffer has to say about art, society, spirituality etc.
I’m more inspired by painters than writers. Lucien Freud blows me away – I love his paintings. Fred Cress is cool. I really like Cezanne, all the extreme colours and interesting textures. I studied art but I’m not technically trained in music so I approach the guitar, the amps etc as though I’m just splashing around with sounds, all different colours and shapes…it’s the only way I can really get my head around this whole music thing without losing perspective.
Well, thanks for interview and we look forward to new music. Any other comments you would like to leave with our readers?
well, just to make music and do it because you love it. and to encourage other people who do it too. everyone needs a little encouragement from time to time and if you stick at it and persevere, you never forget the people who helped you out or gave your stuff a listen. and don’t feel down about the music business because as they say, it’s really just another fashion industry…
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